I'm curious why you think a DSLR would be a better choice with that criteria (particularly coupled with the travel use)? Isn't the point of the E-P1 to have a larger sensor and (potentially) better lenses in a compact package?
I found a local shop expecting them in soon, so I'll be able to check it out side-by-side with some DSLRs.
I think it also depends on what lenses you are planning to get with the DSLR (if you decide to go that way).
Like for me, I know at least from what the micro 4/3 currently offers, it still can't replace what I like about DSLR. I like to use something like 85mm 1.4, which is not available if you use EP1. (also not sure about their macro offerings too)
But I guess if you are into wide angle / more DOF style, then I think even EP-1's stock zoom lens is a great substitute for a something like a D90+18-70mm.
Back to EP-1, no, it's no way a pocket camera unless you are wearing like MC Hammer style of trousers. Even with LX3 (which is smaller than EP1), I don't find it comfortable to put it in my coat pocket. EP1 is more like a shoulder/neck camera that always stick with you, but definitely doesn't really fit into pockets.
Yes you can manually shoot with this camera (the M dial is on top), but from the short time I played with it, I was still a bit confused with which control is where. But I'm pretty sure if you own it for awhile, it shouldn't be any problem.
If I were to get this, I would also get the leather half-case because I think grip-wise, it can benefit from a bit more "grabby" material.
Focusing speed wise, I really had no problem with the speed. Not fast like an pro AFS but it's fast enough for general purpose. It's at least much faster than P&S that's for sure.